Exactly Who Is The Target Audience For Pokémon: Let’s Go! Pikachu/Eevee?

It’s often said that when you try to please everyone, you wind up pleasing no one. When it comes to Pokémon, however, the normal rules don’t always apply.

Up to this point, the Pokémon Let’s Go! series has been billed as a way to bring casual players and lapsed fans of the series deeper into the fold. Capture mechanics were simplified, the anime was referenced in both the style and the story, and the scope was limited to the original Kanto region and monsters. “Hardcore” Pokémon players were aghast: How could the franchise’s first* full adventure on a home console be this dumbed-down?

*Apparently the world forgot about Pokémon Colosseum and Pokémon XD

Fast forward to now, however, and we’re starting to see signs that the hardcore demographic wasn’t completely neglected:

  • Nintendo’s recent Treehouse presentation of the game revealed Madam Celadon, an NPC that can force the wild Pokémon that you encounter to have a specific nature (Bold, Lonely, etc.) for a short period of time. From my experience, natures don’t have much of an effect on normal Pokémon playthroughs. (I, for example, have a habit of catching monsters with natures that contradict the Pokémon’s best stat…) However, their 10% stat boost/reduction combinations are a major part of the Pokémon competitive scene, as they are a major consideration when putting together the optimum “build” for a particular monster. Including this option makes no sense for a game geared towards casual players, but is really handy for players looking to dive into competitive Pokémon battling.
  • Similarly, Serebii is reporting that the Effort Value (EV) mechanic has been overhauled for the Let’s Go! series. In prior titles, EVs were earned by battling other monsters, and earning enough EVs would eventually correspond to improved statistics (4 Speed EVs, for example, would eventually grant a Pokémon 1 extra point to their Speed stat). For Let’s Go!, however, EVs are granted by the use of special candies, and the stat boosts are granted immediately, which means that a monster “can now breach previous ceilings of stats.” Again, the impact of this change on most playthroughs will be zero (maxing out your Pokémon’s level and stats aren’t necessary to complete the game), but this could really shake up the Pokémon competitive scene, as monsters that exceed their previous stat caps could change the entire calculus of battle and throw the standard tier lists into chaos (when a PU Pokémon pops out, the opponent now has to wonder “is it a standard wimpy monster, or is the darn thing on steroids?”). Unbinding Pokémon from their normal stat pools, even by a tiny bit, would be a game-changer to hardcore Pokémon fanatics, while casual players will barely notice any change at all.

These changes force us to ask the question: Who exactly is the intended audience for the Let’s Go! series? Why would Nintendo include features geared towards hardcore players in a game that aims to be a friendly introduction to the series for new/former players?

The knee-jerk answer is, as Diddy might say, “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby.” Nintendo is a business, after all, and if nature-choosing and stat-cap-busting are enough to convince someone to drop $60 on the game (and perhaps an extra who-knows-what on accessories), then the move is a success. Playing this kind of game with your audience, however, is not without risk:

  • You’re going to have to sit through a lot of boring catch-only encounters to access these advanced features, and a hardcore player may end up getting bored/annoyed in the process.
  • If you do more to cater to this audience, however, your casual fans may get confused or intimidated by all the extra depth and complexity, and they may shy away from the game as a result.

Either scenario means your player base takes a hit, which would negatively impact both present and future sales for the Let’s Go! franchise.

However, there’s also a non-knee-jerk answer to our question, which gets to the heart of the magic of the Pokémon series: “Because they always do something like this.”

Pokémon has always offered one of the more in-depth battle systems that you’ll encounter in modern RPGs (the current Effort/Individual Value system has been in place since G3), but this system is completely invisible to players who don’t actively seek it out. In this way, mainline Pokémon games have always served both casual and hardcore players, letting people go as deep into the battling system as they desired. Now, with a sizable audience playing Pokémon Go, the series is adapting by incorporating some of Go’s familiar mechanics while also leaving enough crumbs for classic console players to enjoy the game as well.

The real question we should be asking is “How many constituents can Pokémon truly serve in a single game?” Nintendo and The Pokémon Company have balanced casual and hardcore console players for decades, but with its Niantic partnership booming and mobile-only players now making up a fair chunk of its fanbase, will Let’s Go! be able to offer a satisfactory playing experience to all three factions? By showing off the game’s advanced features, Nintendo is signaling its confidence that the game is up to the task.

The target audience, like it is for every Pokémon adventure, is “everybody.” We’ll have to wait until Friday to see whether or not the game hits this mark.


My Reaction To The Final Smash Bros. Ultimate Direct

Forget Super Smash Bros. Ultimate—this is turning into Nintendo Ultimate, or perhaps The Entire History of Video Games Ultimate.

With roughly a month before the game’s release, Masahiro Sakurai put all of his cards on the table and revealed (almost) everything SSBU has to offer, right down to the help menus. It was a veritable fire hose of information, but it filled the important gaps and did it best to appease darn near every video game fan in existence with a shout-out of some sort. Despite giving us a lot of mundane details, the presentation kept the hype and energy levels maxed out through character reveals, customizations, and even a small taste taste of the story mode.

Let’s sift through the wreckage of what once was the Internet and break this thing down, shall we?

The Characters: I’m 100% satisfied with the final character reveals. Having Ryu without Ken always felt like a glaring omission to me, so I’m happy to see him included, and as a card-carrying member of #TeamLitten, seeing Incineroar join the fray was super exciting. (I never thought a generic Piranha Plant would make for an interesting avatar, but against all odds the SSBU team made it happen!) By also leaving the door open for future DLC, Sakurai and co. gave themselves an opportunity to monitor fan interest post-release and add more fighters based on that interest down the road. Well played, good sir!

While I can’t complain about the current roster, there was one omission that really shocked me. Given the push last year to make ARMS the next great Nintendo franchise, I would have put money on one of its characters joining the playable roster. Seeing Spring Man relegated to assist trophy status (and Ribbon Girl stuck as a Mii outfit!) really drives home the fact that ARMS is Nintendo’s biggest flop of the Switch era. (As I’ve stated before, the Big N has only itself to blame for this, as their packed early release schedule meant ARMS was almost immediately consumed by the Splatoon 2 hype cycle after its release.) While this could be rectified with the upcoming DLC, at this point I’d advise Nintendo against beating a dead horse and to focus on more-popular franchises.

The Spirits: Nintendo seems to be taking a cue from its other franchises  with this one, because Spirits combine the collectability and training of Pokémon with the kit customizations of Splatoon 2. Each fighter can be assigned one primary spirit, which can in turn be augmented with several support spirits, and each spirit brings its own battle boosts to the table. Much like catching a Pikachu, you must engage in Spirit Battles (perhaps with their custom rulesets) and emerge victorious to add to your collection. Heck, even the rock/paper/scissors setup of primary spirit strengths harkens back to the fire/water/grass triumvirate of Pokémon, and the treasure-gathering feature is ripped straight from Poké Pelago! (Going even farther, using Spirit cores to summon more Spirits brings to mind the Blade reveals of Xenoblade Chronicles 2.) It’s an interesting way to introduce more customization to SSBU while also throwing a bone to fans of less-popular franchises. While I think saying you can simulate battles between even more characters oversells the feature (a lot), it’s pretty cool nonetheless.

The Online Options: I see a lot of influence from both Mario Kart 8 and Splatoon 2 here: Random ruleset selection, numeric power rankings, proximity priority, Elite battles, canned messages, playing other games while waiting, etc. (Battle Arenas from ARMS return as well.) Nintendo seems to be learning from its previous online games to produce the best possible experience here, because this is the one game they can’t afford to screw up. (Once thing I’m confused about, however, is the separation of Smash World from the normal Switch online app. Why isn’t it included in the original ?)

The DLC: No surprise here: Adding new characters like Cloud and Bayonetta was a big hit in the previous Smash Bros., so the option is offered here as well. While I appreciate Sakurai’s honesty on what has and hasn’t been developed yet, I didn’t like the idea of incentivizing paying for unknown DLC when Nintendo did it for Breath of the Wild, and I don’t really like it here either. I’m sure you save some money by buying the full 5-pack, but if you have absolutely no indication of what you’re paying for, you’re just asking for a lot of annoyed customers.

The Ending: I wasn’t sure how Sakurai was going to conclude the presentation without one last big reveal, but using a dystopian cinematic and showing off some of the single-player story mode was pure genius. For a player with unreliable network access (like yours truly), they’re going to need assurances that the single-player content is epic enough to warrant buying the game. Nintendo misses the mark with Mario Tennis Aces, but I think they pulled it off here: The world looks huge, the battles look varied and interesting, and while it’s not supposed to be the grand tale that Subspace Emissary was, if the World Of Light’s claimed focus on fun is true, it shouldn’t matter too much. (If I want an long, deep storyline, I’ll play Octopath Traveler.) Giving players a brief glimpse and letting their imagination do the rest? I’d say that deserves a hat tip or two.

So am I completely sold on the game now? Well…I’ll be honest: 2018 Kyle is so freaking busy that I may end up passing on both SSBU and the Let’s Go! series, but 2008 Kyle would have been a day-one adopter and riding this hype train from the start. If you’re fan of Smash Bros. or fighting games in general, I think SSBU will be well worth its asking price. Much like Burger King, the massive number of options available means that you can “have it your way”, my way, their way, Sakurai’s way, and any old way! There will always be complainers, of course, but the majority of players should find a way to enjoy this game.

Now let’s hope your network connection is stable…

Is Another Splatoon amiibo On The Way?

When Nintendo fails to make an obvious move, you have to wonder: Are they not going to do it…or are they just not going to do it yet?

Last week, the Big N finally gave us a glimpse of the gear provided by the upcoming  Octoling amiibos, and as usual, the reveal brought the usual amount of surprises with it. The new gear will be part medieval fantasy, part nightmare fuel (what is that creepy mascot, anyway?), and all very much in line with the current Halloween push (even if these figures aren’t coming until December). While I’m totally on board with the new looks, I was surprised that Nintendo decided not to bring the Salmon Run gear to regular ink battles. The programming and modeling work for these items was already done, and the look is certainly fresh enough to fit in with Splatoons 2‘s bright-and-crazy vibe, so why not take the easy win and bring the Grizzco gear to Turf Wars?

Then again, as I look back on a tweet I posted last July…maybe Nintendo’s thinking about scoring a touchdown rather than settling for a field goal.

Amiibo releases have been few and far between this year (and I’ve publicly questioned whether they’re worth buying at all), but Splatoon 2 is the one series that appears to be using them effectively: Of the eight figures slated for release this year, six of them have been associated with the game (Pearl & Marina, the Octoling trio, and the Smash Bros. Inkling). While Smash Bros. will likely add to the figure release numbers by the end of this year (K. Rool, Simon Belmont, Smash-specific Isabelle, etc.), the fact remains that if Nintendo still wants to make money off of amiibos, Splatoon players are still willing to buy them.

I didn’t talk about the Grizzco gear in my last Splatoon post, so let me make another prediction here: I think a Salmon Run-themed amiibo set will be coming sometime in 2019, bringing a host of old (and perhaps new) Grizzco gear with it.

Image from the Reno Gazette Journal

First, let’s address the question of what the figures would actually look like. The first two seem fairly obvious:

  • The Mr. Grizz statue/wood carving seen after entering the Salmon Run area.
  • A standard Chum, complete with frying pan.

The third, however, is a bit of a mystery. None of the Boss Salmonids really stand out to me, but some seem a bit more unwieldy as a figure than others (Stingers are too tall, Steel Eels are too long, and Maws are rarely visible long enough to be terribly distinctive). I see either a FlyFish or a Scrapper as the most logical choices, with the special Goldie boss as a wildcard. (Just having a 2-pack similar to Pearl & Marina is also a possibility.)

Next, let’s talk about the gear giveaways:

    • Wearables: The Salmon Run hat, overalls, and boots would be given out by one figure, similar to how other full sets are handled. (While the overalls and boots fit together as if they were a single item, I imagine that they are actually separate items that the game draws on the PC just like any other clothing and shoes.) The special-weapon packs on the hat  could be included by default, or might only appear when a player actually has their weapon charged in an ink battle.
    • Weapons: We’ve seen several weapons that were designed specifically for Salmon Run, and while they might be a bit OP for Turf Wars in their current forms, they could be tweaked to just be re-skinned versions of existing weapons:
      Grizzco Weapon Ink Battle Equivalent
      Grizzco Blaster Clash Blaster
      Grizzco Brella Undercover Brella
      Grizzco Charger Bamboozler
      Grizzco Slosher Explosher
    • In-Game Bonuses: This is an avenue Splatoon 2 hasn’t really explored, but a co-op mode like Salmon Run would be the perfect place to allow players to power up via amiibo. Because everyone is working together, having an amiibo unlock a third special attack charge or grant a character bonus (speed, attack, etc.) benefits the entire team, and thus wouldn’t be seen as an unfair advantage (except by the Salmonids). It’s a longshot idea, but it’s definitely a possibility.

In the end, I think bringing the Salmon Run gear to ink battles in Splatoon 2 makes too much sense not to happen, and by tying it to amiibo, Nintendo can create yet another revenue stream that shouldn’t annoy the player base. Creepy mascots are all well and good, but when an opportunity like this comes knocking, Nintendo shouldn’t ignore it.

Which Games Should Nintendo Remake Port Next?

Image From Nintendo Life

You know you’re running out of ideas when you think “Hey, I should write about this!” and discover that you thought the exact same thing at the exact same time last year.

Since my predictive foray into all of Nintendo’s classic series last year, the company has shown that porting old games to new systems is a major part of their release strategy going forward. While this is especially true for the 3DS (few developers are interested in targeting the other Nintendo handheld for new games while the new, shiny Switch is sitting out there), even the remake trend for the Switch has lasted far longer than I expected (who ever imagined that New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe was coming?). With the idea of a Virtual Console seemingly dead, Nintendo is banking on full-fledged releases of specific games to fill that void.

So which games would give Nintendo’s 2019 lineup the biggest boost? Here are my ideas:

Image From Polygon

Pokémon Diamond/Pearl

  • Last seen: Nintendo DS, 2007
  • Should come back on: Nintendo 3DS

People have been clamoring for a Diamond/Pearl remake for years now, so the fact that it’s on my list is no surprise. Putting it on the 3DS, however, might seem like an odd decision: Why would we subject people to a cramped, creaky old handheld system when we could experience Sinnoh in glorious HD on the Switch?

Here’s the thing: Between Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee! and the upcoming G8 Pokémon title, the Switch is about to hit the Pokémon saturation point, and thus we probably won’t need another game in that series on that system until at least 2020. The 3DS, however, will be just as starved for content in 2019 as it is now (and probably more so), and if Nintendo is really serious about maintaining 3DS support, a Pokémon game is probably the best way to do it.

Pokémon has always functioned well as an “entry-level” series that could be picked up by players of any skill level, and with its lower price tag and fairly durable construction, the 3DS is the perfect entry-level system for younger gamers and people who can’t afford to drop several hundred dollars on a new console. It’s been a perfect marriage of game and system in the past, and bringing Diamond and Pearl to the 3DS is a great way to both signal “yes, we’re serious about keeping this console around, so go ahead and buy it!” and let players who can’t experience Pokémon any other way enjoy the franchise.

Image from Moby Games

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door

  • Last seen on: Nintendo GameCube, 2004
  • Should come back on: Nintendo Switch

This feels like another no-brainer: People have asking for a port of this game for years, we’re roughly two years out from Paper Mario: Color Splash, and the one thing that people agreed was great about Color Splash (the graphics) wil look even better on the Switch! This feels like a great title to fill a gap in the 2019 lineup, and with Mario & Luigi getting some love on the 3DS, it would be awesome to see this franchise return as well.

Image from Nintendo UK

Super Metroid

  • Last seen on: Super Nintendo, 1994
  • Should come back on: Nintendo 3DS

Metroid: Samus Returns was such a well-received remake that Nintendo would be foolish not to dip their toes in this water again. With Metroid Prime 4 eventually coming to the Switch, however, bringing another older installment of the series to the 3DS makes more sense in the short term.

Super Metroid isn’t just a great Metroid game; it’s considered one of the best games period. Give it the same treatment as Metroid II (updated visuals, dual-screen enhancements, a few more weapon and attack options, etc.), and this thing would sell like hotcakes, even on an aging platform like the 3DS. Do it sooner rather than later, and it helps build more hype for Prime 4 whenever it reaches store shelves.

Image from Easy Allies

Donkey Kong 64

  • Last seen on: Nintendo 64, 1999
  • Should come back on: Nintendo Switch

DK’s already got a 2D port on the Switch with Tropical Freeze, but that’s like saying New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe should keep Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario 3D World off the Switch. Those games are obviated by Super Mario Odyssey, but there’s no 3D equivalent blocking everyone’s favorite Kong.

The platforming action from DK64 still holds up today, and it offers a few things that even Odyssey lacks (multiple playable characters, to start). Most of the characters here aren’t exactly household names, but more-famous characters could be swapped in if necessary (Dixie for Tiny, for example). The excitement over K. Rool’s inclusion in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate indicates that there’s a market for more Donkey Kong material, and giving it the standard port treatment (improved visuals, extra levels, etc.) gives the Switch another high-quality 3D platformer just as Odyssey fades into history.

Image from Nintendo Life

Wii Music

  • Last seen on: Wii, 2008
  • Should come back on: Switch

It’s high time Nintendo made use of all that Joy-Con tech. Nintendo Labo and Super Mario Party are a start, but Wii Music would be another big step.

I really enjoyed this game back in the day, and with the return of Wii Remote-like controllers for the Switch, the time seems ripe for bringing it back for an encore. The core gameplay wouldn’t require many changes (the Joy-Cons could support all the existing instruments and might even enable the use of other ones), it’s got great local multiplayer potential, and the song list could be expanded with more classic and Nintendo-centric tunes (Splatoon tracks, anyone?). Things like the IR camera could also enable some new twists: Could how far your mouth is away from the Joy-Con change the sound of the instrument being played?

If Nintendo’s approach is really “to do things differently” (even when it makes zero sense), then bringing back some of their Wii-era gimmicks would fit the console perfectly, and Wii Music was (IMHO) one of the best tricks of that era.

What’s Left To Add To Splatoon 2?

Image From Nintendo Life

Does anyone else get the feeling that Splatoon 2 is getting sacrificed on the altar of Smash Bros.?

Nintendo has now announced that Skipper Pavilion, the latest new map for Splatoon 2will also be the last new map for the game. It seems like an odd decision, given that we just started paying for online play and Splatoon 2 remains one of the most-active games on the Switch. With Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on the horizon, however, perhaps Nintendo feels the need to marshal all possible resources to support a game that is assured to be a mega-hit for them (and has a lot of moving parts to maintain).

The first thing Splatoon fans need to do is refrain from panicking. New content updates may end at the start of 2019, but that doesn’t mean special events like Splatfests will end as well. Despite the official end of new ARMS content in 2017, we’ve still seen a number of Party Crashes held this year, and Nintendo knows it has to do something to avoid having a angry mob of squidkids and octokids on their doorstep. (Also, why would they make all these recent Splatfest changes if they only planned to run them for another few months?) My guess is that these fests will continue through at least the balance of 2019.

That being said, it’s worth considering what content is left to add for Splatoon 2. There are still a few things leftover from Splatoon that could be ported to the sequel, and Nintendo has teased a few new sub and special weapon options, but what else could be packed in before the clock strikes midnight on 2018?

Let’s break down the potential additions by type:

 Maps: First, let’s look back at my attempt at predicting which original maps we would see again:

Returning Map I said… As of now, I’m…
Arowana Mall Yes Right
Saltspray Rig No Right
Urchin Underpass Yes Wrong
Walleye Warehouse No Wrong
Bluefin Depot No Right
Camp Triggerfish No Wrong
Flounder Heights Yes Wrong
Hammerhead Bridge No Right
Museum D’Alfonsino Yes Wrong
Mahi-Mahi Resort No Right
Piranha Pit No Wrong
Ancho-V Games Yes Right

Apparently I would have been better off just flipping a coin, but I digress…

Nintendo took care to say that Skipper Pavilion would be the last new map added to the game, and with 23 maps already in the rotation (compared to 16 in the original), we’re pretty close to the saturation point on these things. Still, with two months in between the Pavilion’s release and January 1st, I expect to see at least one more original map return to the rotation.

In terms of which map it could be, I think it’s either:

  • Flounder Heights (this is the one I see mentioned most online, so it’s seems to have a large, devoted fanbase), or
  • Museum D’Alfonsino (it’s a fairly dynamic map, and recent Shifty Station designs indicate the Nintendo is not afraid to experiment).

I could see Mahi-Mahi Resort returning as well, but not the others (RIP Saltspray).

I’d also like to see Nintendo expand the map rotations to include a third map in every two-hour session. It’s getting to the point where I go weeks without seeing some of the maps (for example, I still haven’t seen the reworked Starfish Mainstage), so throwing a third map in would increase the chances of playing on each stage.

Finally, there’s another avenue of expansion that seems to be getting ignored: Salmon Run maps. There are only four of them right now, so adding another one for people seems like it would have a better ROI than yet another Turf War map.

Gear: From what I can see, we’ve basically gotten every piece of gear from Splatoon in Splatoon 2, with the exception of clothing that requires external licensing agreements (the Squid Girl outfit, the CoroCoro and Famitsu sets).

I’m torn on whether or not to bring these items back to Splatoon 2. On one hand, there’s so much gear already that I’ll never possibly get around to wearing it all. On the other hand, these special sets were really cool and fu to use (especially the Squid Girl one). If Nintendo can find a way to get Snake back into Smash Bros., they should be able to work something out with Masahiro Anbe, right? If I had a guess, I’d say we’ve got all the Splatoon gear we’re going to get, but I wouldn’t mind being pleasantly surprised. 🙂

We’ve also got the Octoling amiibos coming out later this year, although I’m not sure what sort of gear they’ll give us (maybe the original outfit from the Octo Expansion, or some of the Japanese-exclusive clothing like the Sennyu Suit?). Nevertheless, I don’t see a lot of expansion on this front.

Weapons: We’re getting some surprise new sub and special weapons, so I imagine Nintendo will pair them with some new weapon kits similar to the Kensa collection rather than retro-fitting older weapons. The Kensa collection was pretty basic from a main weapon perspective, so I expect our  subs and specials to be paired with newer weapons types (Sloshers, Splatlings, Brellas).

These new developments beg the question: Are there any special weapons from Splatoon that might make sense in Splatoon 2? The one that sticks out to me is Echolocator: It’s not reliant on a separate map like Inkstrike, it’s not an OP invincibility move like Kraken or Bubbler, and it might make for some interesting changes to the meta (Cold-Blooded could become useful again!). Besides that, however, I don’t see anything returning from the original game.

Could we get a new main weapon type? I doubt it, as Nintendo likes to give players more kit options and so little support time remaining, we’d probably just get stuck with a single version of whatever the weapon is.

Character Customizations: This could get interesting, as there’s an obvious area that could use some improvement. Octolings are still limited to two hairstyles per gender while Inklings have six, and players have been clamoring for some more options ever since the DLC came out, so adding more styles here feels like an easy win for Nintendo. Pants options still aren’t terribly numerous either, but I don’t hear a lot of complaining about this anymore, so I think we won’t get anything extra here.

(Personally, I wouldn’t mind separating ‘face’ and ‘head’ headgear options into separate slots, but that feels like a major change that would better suited for the inevitable Splatoon 3.)

Game Modes: I don’t see anything changing on this front. Adding something like a fifth ranked mode would require a lot of testing and tweaking that would likely stretch into 2019, so unless Nintendo decides to surprise us with something next year, what you see is what you get.

Something Else? Nintendo likes to surprise people, so could there be some totally off-the-wall in the works? I’d never say never, but the only crazy thing I can think of is my customizable “room” idea from before. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Here’s my prediction: We get one last blowout update for the holidays, which includes:

  • A returning Splatoon map
  • A new Salmon Run map
  • A branded weapon pack that includes the new subs and specials
  • Support for the Octoling amiibos
  • New Octoling hairstyle options

Yes, it’s hard to admit that the end is nigh, but just like with the original game, I expect Splatoon 2 to last far beyond the end of official support.  Super Smash Bros.Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee!, and other new games will cut into the player base, but there will be enough Inklings and Octolings around to keep the game vibrant for years to come.

G8 Pokémon: What Will They Be Like?

Who’s that Pokémon generation? (Original Image from Reddit)

Last year, I dug into the depths of Pokémon base stats to try to answer a simple question: Why were G7 monsters so darn slow? Today, we attempt to answer a bigger question: How far can we extrapolate stat changes over time, and what can we say about G8 Pokémon based on these trends?

Our Speed analysis from before indicated that there seemed to be an effort to counterbalance the stats of monsters from previous generations: G2 and G3 Pokémon were relatively slow, G4 through G6 was significantly faster, and G7 was slow again. The goal this time is to look at every statistic across each generation, identify trends over time, and try to predict where the G8 monsters might fall on the spectrum.

Some comments on the methodology:

  • All data used was compiled from Bulbapedia’s base stat pages.
  • Only final evolutionary forms were included in the analysis. However, if an evolution was considered a final form in its generation, it was included in that generation’s statistics. Hence, Pokémon who had different final forms in different generations were included multiple times (for example, Rhydon was included in G1 calculations while Rhyperior was included in G4 ones).
  • Because G1 Pokémon only had one “special” stat, their split spec. attack/defense stats from G2 were used, and both G1 and G2 were lumped together in a single category. This means that any G1 final forms that lost that status in G2 (Golbat, Onix, Porygon, etc.) are not included in the calculations.
  • Pokémon with multiple final forms were included multiple times only if they could not switch between these forms at will. For example, Wormadam’s three forms are all included separately, but only Deoxys’s “normal” form is included.

With all the technicalities covered, let’s get to the tables!

Average Value For…
Stat G1/G2 G3 G4 G5 G6 G7
HP 78.956 75.289 81.686 84.148 81.425 80.310
Attack 83.547 87.158 92.857 97.654 86.225 97.259
Defense 81.080 81.066 88.129 83.111 91.575 88.293
Spec. Attack 76.949 81.895 87.500 84.667 86.875 87.017
Spec. Defense 83.255 80.355 86.543 79.519 90.950 86.103
Speed 75.730 72.947 78.186 80.654 78.100 74.948
Average 79.920 79.785 85.817 84.959 85.858 85.655

A few things jump out from these numbers immediately:

  • There was a substantial overall stat jump between G3 and G4, but that number has been remarkably stable ever since. It makes you wonder if The Pokémon Company has set 85 as the benchmark for future generation stat averages. (Based on this thought, I also wonder if extrapolating trends using pre-G4 gens is even useful.)
  • If there’s a “bubble stat” that’s about to burst, it’s Attack: G5 and G7 stand head-and-shoulders above the rest of the generations, and G4’s numbers are noticeably high as well.
  • G6 sticks out as a decidedly defensive generation: It’s the only one with two average stats above 90 (Defense and Spec. Defense), and its Attack is the lowest since the G1/G2 days. Given that it followed a high-Attack generation in G5 and that G7 sports G5-esque numbers, could G8 provide a similar counterbalance to G7? (The argument against the above bullet is that G7’s Special Defense number more closely resemble G4’s, a number that dropped off a cliff in G5.)
  • HP, Spec. Attack, and Speed seem relatively flat from G4 onwards (although G7 is still notably slow). Every other stat has had a 90+ peak in the past; is one of these stats due to take a turn?

Given these observations, here’s my prediction for how things will play out in G8:

Stat G8 Average
HP 82
Attack 85
Defense 86
Spec. Attack 93
Spec. Defense 85
Speed 80
Overall 85

Allow me to explain:

  • HP and Speed seem to lag behind the rest of the stats, so I decided that G8 would be Spec. Attack’s time to shine. 93 is a fairly high average, but it’s still below the 97+ Attack averages we’ve seen lately.
  • Attack comes crashing down hard from its G7 level, mirroring the G5-to-G6 correction.
  • Spec. Defense seems to be the more volatile defensive stat historically, so that ends up lower than Defense here. Still, both wind up are pretty close to their G7 values.
  • HP remains relatively flat, but Speed picks up the remaining slack to approach its G5 peak. I think this will make for some interesting wrinkles in the competitive scene: Imagine a wave of Alakazam-like monsters with decent HP sweeping the meta!

This is interesting, but it also feels incomplete. Can we say more, like whether or not there’s a type that needs super-charging?

Pokémon has never been known for its type balancing, but it’s tried to make strides recently to even things out (using Fairy to counter Dragon types and make Poison Pokémon more valuable, for example).  This can also be done, however, by bringing in more and stronger monsters for players to mess around with. Are there any types that could use a numbers boost?

According to PokémonDB’s numbers, the answer is a resounding yes:

Type Total # of Pokémon
Normal 116
Fire 74
Water 143
Electric 61
Grass 109
Ice 44
Fight 63
Poison 71
Ground 75
Flying 113
Psychic 103
Bug 83
Rock 70
Ghost 57
Dragon 61
Dark 60
Steel 60
Fairy 53

The totals are all over the place, but Ice stands out as a type that is lagging far behind its peers. (The fact that Fairy has cut into its ‘Dragon counter’ territory doesn’t help matters.) While the type counts some pretty potent Pokémon among its members (Articuno, Regice, Kyurem), it could still use some reinforcements.

Here’s where things get interesting (albeit speculative). Ice Pokémon didn’t have a huge presence in G7, which makes total sense: Alola was a tropical island with a climate mostly inhospitable to such creatures. If the Pokémon Company wants to bring Ice back to the pack, what sort of world could they create to support them?

Picture this: The G8 world of Pokémon is a cold, desolate region filled with ice and snow (think Pokémon Platinum times 100). The harsh climate is suitable only for types that are conveniently underrepresented up to this point: Ice, Rock, Dark, Ground, Fire) while types that are generally numerous (Water, Grass, Bug) and a lot harder to find. Turn the dystopian dial up a notch or two, and maybe Ghost Pokémon finally get some decent representation as well.

The chances of this happening are remote (Nintendo and company are not going to use the first HD mainline Pokémon game to show off a barren wasteland), but maybe the changes aren’t permanent. Maybe the world was a warm, hospitable area until some plot point sunk the entire place into a deep freeze. I think there’s room for a deep, compelling story here, and it could help fix the current type inequalities along the way.

So that’s my “Big Data”-esque attempt to peer into the crystal ball and see what sort of creatures will populate the upcoming G8 game. If you’ve got predictions of your own, drop them in the comments below!

Kyle’s Favorite Video Game Battle Themes

This is what happens when life gets busy and you suddenly realize you have half an hour to put together a Friday post…

I don’t get many chances to mix the musical and gaming themes of this blog, but these are a few examples of how these worlds can collide in the best possible way. Game music is often ignored in favor of other things like graphics, story progression, and character development, but it plays a major role in establishing the atmosphere of a game, and serves as an emotional conduit for the game to affect how the player’s feelings and experience. Battle themes are a prime example of this: They have to convey both a sense of danger and urgency, and let the player know that what’s about to happen is serious business. The best ones can lodge in the listener’s mind for years afterward, and these are the ones that have stuck with me over the years.

Battle Against Nightmare (Kirby’s Adventure, 1993)

This thing left quite an impression back in the day. Kirby music up to this point was mostly light and bouncy, and even the regular boss theme didn’t feel terribly ominous in practice. Suddenly, you’re faced with this long, dark-sounding intro ending with Kirby’s warp star getting shot out of the sky, and then this Dracula-like thing appears on screen as this track kicks off, and you realize that things are about to get real. Tons of minor chords, a fast tempo driven hard by the percussion, the unsettling higher synth tones on the melody…I had no idea you could get this much tension out of an 8-bit track!

  • Fight Against An Armed Boss (Super Mario RPG, 1996)

It’s amazing how the use of one or two instruments can make or break a track like this. At first glance, this one doesn’t seem all that notable or catchy: The tempo isn’t terribly fast, and the bass and percussion lines is nothing to write home about. To me, this is all about the synthetic wind instruments: That dark clarinet melody was something I hadn’t heard before (and I really haven’t heard it much since), and it added a lot of texture and a real foreboding feel to the track. The horn stabs in the background are just okay at first, but then they switch places with the clarinet halfway through and give the track a much more darker feel than before (the clarinet’s low part here helps a lot too). I liked most of the SMRPG soundtrack, but this one stands out as my favorite.

  • Fighting (Final Fantasy VII, 1997)

As awesome as some of the orchestral tracks from Super Mario Odyssey are, I’d still rank this MIDI orchestral track above them. It’s a nice blend of a classic strings and horns with a modern, uptempo backbeat, and while it’s not a terribly ominous track, as a general battle theme the focus is less on the present moment and more on the fact that you have yet another obstacle that needs to be taken care of before you can proceed. There’s a lot of nervous, frenetic energy here, which drives home the pressure of navigating FFVII’s real-time battle system (being accustomed to turn-based RPGs like SMRPG made for a tricky transition), and the swells of the orchestra and the flute-esque solo really play with your emotions as you’re trying to figure out what commands to give before your enemies can act.

  • Hyper Zone 2 (Kirby’s Adventure 3, 1997)

This is the battle equivalent of Brad Paisley’s “Time Warp”: Tempo, tempo, and more tempo. Sure, it’s tone is a little unsettling, but its main goal is to generate so much sonic energy that it pushes you to your limit and rushes you into making a mistake. (After all, you’re trying to dodge a gigantic floating eyeball as this thing races through your head.) Keeping your emotions in check and making measured decisions while the music is telling you to gogogohurryhurrynownownow adds an extra level of difficulty to an already-tough boss battle. You’d be surprised how much easier this fight gets when you turn your volume down!

  • Battle! Zinnia (Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire, 2013)

While this battle ended up being a cakewalk for me in Pokémon Omega Ruby (every monster I had seemed to be super-effective against dragons), it was the novelty of the instrumentation that stuck with me: I’d never noticed violins and accordions used in a Pokémon battle theme before, and I was impressed at how effectively they ratcheted up the tension and energy of the moment. The riffs themselves aren’t terribly complex, but they rely on the horns and drums behind to drive the tempo and instead an extra layer of texture that was missing from other battle themes in the game. Here’s hoping Zinnia makes a return to Pokémon in the future and brings her awesome theme with her!

  • Boss Battle (Miitopia, 2016)

I loved a lot of things about Miitopia, but its music stood out even among its many highlights. What impresses me the most about this track is that instead of being dark and scary like you’d expect, you get this bouncy, energetic track carried by synthetic instruments similar to the FF7 theme from before, and yet is still does enough to set the mood and reflect the seriousness of the situation. Much like Miitopia itself, it balances the absurdity and the gravity of the situation: Sure, you might be fighting giant hamburgers, but those hamburgers will rip you to pieces if you’re not on your game! It’s catchy, it’s fun, and it really revs you up for the fight. What more can you ask more?

These are my favorite themes, but I’ve probably left a bunch more good ones off the list. What are your favorite video game themes to listen to? Let me know in the comments!